Access to Information (ATI)

The need for open and effective governance the world over, especially in developing countries, prompted a demand of availability of information to stakeholders and players in governance.

This is due to the growing need to fight corruption and its consequences, including unequal access to public services and justice, reduced investor confidence, continued poverty, and violence and overthrow of governments and undermining effects on the rule of law and citizen confidence in democratic institutions; for enhanced wide participation by citizenry in governance and to have open governance.

Our government has been trying to take the bill of access to information in parliament since 2002, but up to now 2016 the bill has not been passed into law. At all the stages of this law civil society organizations were at hand to participate, provide knowledge and offer expertise where necessary, so, as Operation Young Vote, we are part of the coalition of CSO champions the enactment of the AIT into law.

CAMPAIGN OBJECTIVES

To explain in detail what access to information entails:
confidently appreciate the necessity of access to information beyond the media;
1 Access to information or freedom of information as previously referred to, is a human right that guarantees people the right to access information from public bodies. It is founded on the principle that public bodies hold information not for themselves but for the public.
2 Like freedom of expression, access to information is an international human right norm. Article 19 of both the UN Declaration on Human Rights and the international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that the right to freedom of expression includes not only freedom to impart information and ideas of all kinds.

HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED

The need for the FOL law became apparent in Zambia in the wake of the multi-party democratic Dispensation with a demand for a more democratic constitution that recognized the Right of Citizens. The then constitution still had features of the one party participatory system (of the UNIP regime) as only Article 4 of this constitution was amended to allow for multipartism..

Some factors that motivate CSOs to engage in the ATI include:
Recognizing the importance of Access to information (ATI) law.
Acknowledging that ATI law is critical to the peoples effective participation in the governance system of our country.

From that background we CSOs came up with the campaign to go to the citizens as the manager stakeholder of the ATI and explain to them if their agree with us we will ask them to sign in order to petition parliament to enact the ATI as the law. With the help of a donor this project has been undertaken in all the districts of the country - about 148.

CAMPAIGN INNOVATIONS

The campaign has been taken to citizens through the community leaders. The media has been a big tool in providing information to the public about the importance of the ATI so it has been done in the way that every citizen is reached.

It was stated with the training of the national leaders of the CSOs and then sent to all the ten provinces of Zambia and thes leaders were conducting workshops to 20 people from each district.

After the training these 20 people became the message carriers to the community and they are the ones to get the signatures from the people after delivering the message.

CAMPAIGN IMPACT

A number of instruments at global, regional and international level to which Zambia is a signatory have recognized the importance of ATI. Some of these include;THE AFRICAN CHARTER ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES RIGHT (AFRICAN CHARTER) in which Article 1 obliges states parties to adopt legislative or other measures to give effect to the rights, duties and freedoms enshrined therein.

THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES RIGHTS (African commission) which was aimed at assisting states in fulfilling the African Charter obligation. The AC has since its establishment in November 1987 gone further to seek to elaborate on the scope and content of some of the rights contained in the African Charter through the adoption of soft law.

CHALLENGES FACED

The biggest challenges are that most people in the country are more interested in listening to political messages than anything alse so just to mobilize people for a meeting has been a big challenge.

People will make sure to ask a lot of questions about what you will give them if they sign a petition.Some challenges was that government officials were not giving permission to hold the meeting until when it was fully understood.

Other challenges are: roads to some areas and districts were bad due to the rainy season and most of the bridges are washed away.

LESSONS LEARNT

The lessons learnt are that a lot of the people do not have information about the ATI, and due to that most of the public officers do not want to have this bill passed into law.

This is because it will be an eye opener to the public for them to start demanding information, which has not been the case to a lot of public officers. They always keep people in dark for them to keep on ruling them without people questioning them.

So as CSOs we have learnt that its our mandate to educate the community about their rights and how they can demand information in order to make an informed decision.
More significantly, the African charter on the values and principle of public service and administration devotes an entire section to the right of access to information.